Opportunity Knocks! How Nonprofit Employers Build a Workforce that Includes New Canadians

This document describes the demographic challenges that effect the labour force, reasons nonprofit organizations need to take action, and also provides five areas of focus for employers.

The HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector 2008 surveys of employers and employees revealed that 89% of respondents identified as ‘white or caucasian’ and that only 6% identified as a member of a visible minority. Additionally, only about one in nine indicated they had immigrated to Canada. While there are certain areas of the sector that are more representative of the Canadian mosaic – most notably organizations that work in the fields of immigrant and settlement services – the vast majority of nonprofits are not.

There is ample evidence that immigrant and members of visible minorities comprise a substantial pool of underutilized human resources. This is true in all sectors, including the nonprofit sector. Employers need to take advantage of all potential sources of qualified and skilled workers available to them.

The report, Opportunity Knocks! How Nonprofit Employers Build a Workforce that includes New Canadians, describes the demographic challenges that affect the nonprofit labour force, reasons organizations need to take action, and also provides five areas of focus for employers.

Reasons for taking action

Promotion of organizational values

Many nonprofits champion social justice, empowerment, equality, diversity and social inclusion. Building a workforce that reflects our communities, the people we work with and Canadian society at large is one way organizations can live up to and promote these values and commitments.

Better service

When employees are members of the communities that an organization works with, it enhances credibility and trust. It also means that an organization gains valuable language and cultural capacity in the delivery of its services.

Broader community engagement

Increased diversity allows organizations to connect with a greater variety of people and links with potential members, new employees, volunteers, donors and supporters. These larger networks provide further reach, greater visibility, a broader base of support for your organization and increased relevancy within communities.

Enhanced innovation and problem solving

Research from other sectors and countries shows a strong link between diversity and innovation. Well-managed diverse teams can be more productive, creative and effective than homogeneous groups. New Canadians can contribute to more effective decision making and problem solving by providing a broader spectrum of knowledge, experience and perspectives.

Five areas where employers can take action:

 1. Get commitment from all levels of leadership

Diversity cannot be the sole responsibility of one hiring manager or HR staff person. It is shared across all levels of the organization with strong support from organizational leaders.

 2. Make connections with New Canadians as an ‘employer of choice’

New Canadians understand the nonprofit sector differently. Employers must communicate to newcomers what the organization does, how it supports employees, the type of work available and the skill sets that are required.

 3. Implement effective hiring and selection practices

Review HR practices to identify biases, barriers and opportunities for improvement. Be aware of all the resources that can be of help within and outside of a community (e.g. services to assess foreign credentials, language training for newcomers).

 4. Create an inclusive work environment

A workplace where ALL people can fully participate and contribute is inclusive. Nonprofit employers place great importance on a candidate’s ‘fit’ with the organizational culture and norms, as well as with the values inherent in the work. A good orientation process is important for all new hires to successfully integrate into the organization and perform job tasks effectively, particularly when the new hire is a recent immigrant.

 5. Support employee development

Emphasize the importance of finding ways other than salary increases to engage, recognize, motivate and retain staff.

 Read the full report: Opportunity Knocks! How Nonprofit Employers Build a Workforce that includes New Canadians

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